Working ‘with’ the course book, not ‘for’ the course book.

In the past I’ve given talks to teachers about how to use my course book ‘Life’ effectively with students. One thing I’ve always stressed to teachers is the need for working ‘with’ the course book rather than ‘for’ the course book. I tried to set the record straight that when any author writes a course book, they don’t assume that a teacher will do everything on the page but instead that teachers will adapt the material work so it works for them and their students. This might mean missing certain exercises out, asking extra questions about the photos, or maybe flipping a reading task so you read it before a lesson and then discuss it in class.

Sometimes, audiences of teachers are surprised to hear me saying this as they’d assumed the author would expect every teacher and student to follow everything they have written as if the course book is a rule book (or tablet of stone). In another previous video post on this site I expand on this topic by reporting back on a survey I once carried out with teachers where I asked them to describe the role of the course book and their relationship with the materials.

So naturally I was interested to listen to a recent interview with the author and trainer Rod Bolitho about ‘Relations with materials’. Recorded by the TEFL Training Institute, it’s available to listen to here. Among his various points, I think some key points include:

  • From the teachers perspective, we should teach ‘with’ the course book, not ‘through’ the course book.
  • From a learner perspective, the course book is something concrete to hold onto, it provides a sense of progression and it’s useful for catching up.
  • A good course book should be multi-faceted, offer challenge, provide what the teacher needs to get a lesson up and running, and not just follow a linguistic syllabus but also also offer opportunities for critical and creative thinking.
  • Teacher’s guides can sometimes be guilty of infantilising the user when they offer complete lesson plans to follow rather than allowing for the teacher to create their own plans.

Anyway, have a listen and thanks to TEFL Training Institute for sharing the recording.

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